Loving Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey in a waterford glass

Irish Whiskey. Photograph, iStock Photos.

How much do you know about Irish whiskey?

If it’s not much, that’s not surprising, since the industry has come back from what some termed ‘the edge of extinction’ on the international market. In 2015, the Irish Whiskey Association launched a major marketing and public relations effort to change this, to work on repeating the success of the Scottish Whiskey industry in increasing market share outside of their country.

Before my trip to Ireland for TBEX Europe in Killarney, my knowledge was limited to Jameson’s and Bushmill’s whiskey, both of which I liked. Over my eight- day trip, I sampled many, and left with a list of spirits I sincerely hope I can buy at home.

If you live in the United States, here are some statistics on Irish Whiskey in the American market that might surprise you:

Irish whiskey has been the fastest-growing spirit in the country, with sales soaring over the last 15 years. Consider that in 2002, just 434,000 cases were sold in the United States, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade group.

By 2016, that number had reached more than 3.8 million cases, growing by almost 19 percent in that year alone, an astounding growth rate that was nearly three times that of the next highest category, American whiskey, at 6.8 percent, according to the council.

— Eric Asimov, New York Times, Irish Whiskeys Rise Above the Annual Celebration

Teeling Whiskey Single Grain

Teeling’s Single Grain whiskey — love at first taste. Photograph, Ann Fisher

I enjoyed exploring Irish whiskeys on this trip. We had Teeling’s Single Grain on our first evening, and loved the smooth quality of it, which led us to Celtic Whiskey Shop to buy a bottle to enjoy while in Dublin.

Whiskey tasting at the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin

Celtic Whiskey Shop, Dublin: All three of these were wonderful. Writer’s Tears is a very smooth whiskey (Pat’s favorite), and I like both it and my favorite of the three, Knappogue Castle (pronounced Nappogue). Photograph, Ann Fisher.

While there, we enjoyed tasting Writer’s Tears (Copper Pot), Knappogue Castle 16 year, and Teeling’s Brabazon — and realized how much tasting was in front of us to even start to grasp all of the creative things distilleries are doing in Ireland. Some of the techniques that make each whiskey so different would be decisions about the type of casks to use in the aging process — some might be a particular type of oak, and others are being aged in sherry or madeira casks, producing a great variety of flavors.

The staff at the Celtic Whiskey Shop were knowledgeable and friendly, and we left with a note introducing us to the staff in Killarney, where the Celtic Whiskey people also have a wonderful bar and restaurant.

At the Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder in Killarney, you’ll find over 800 Irish whiskeys, more that 1,400 whiskeys overall, making it the largest collection of Irish whiskey in the world, and the largest overall collection of whiskey in Ireland. Lord, what a beautiful thing . . .

And to top it off — they have a great kitchen that serves a variety of small plates and main dishes that are outstanding tasting options with their whiskeys.

The Celtic Whiskey Bar in Killarney

The Celtic Whiskey Bar in Killarney, a beautiful thing. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Irish Whiskey flight Celtic Whiskey Bar Killarney

A flight of whiskey: The Irish Favourites, at the Celtic Whiskey Bar in Killarney. Photographs, Ann Fisher.

The smokiness of the Connemara 12 year old was wonderful.

The smokiness of the Connemara 12-year-old was wonderful. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

We chose the Irish Favourites flight: Jameson’s Redbreast 12 year, Writer’s Tears (Copper Pot), Tyrconnell 10 year old Madeira Cask, and Connemara 12 year old (a peated whiskey). It was all good, but Pat came away with Writer’s Tears as her continued top choice, and I favored the Connemara. I found the smoky flavor of the Connemara on top of the fruity notes in the whiskey really wonderful, and like nothing I’ve ever had before — very different from the peaty whiskeys of Scotland.

So, if you don’t know much about Irish Whiskey, you have some delightful tasting ahead of you — what are you waiting for? Get out there and get on it!

The sun’s over the yard arm somewhere . . .


Bottle your own Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder, Killarney

Yes, I did! Bottle my own Irish Whiskey at the Celtic Whiskey Bar in Killarney. And it arrived at my home, just as promised, less than ten days later.


If you’re interested in hearing the interview with Bernard Walsh on the Irish Whiskey Industry, you find it here:

Additionally, this is an outstanding article on the overview of the renaissance in Irish Whiskey:

The Rise, Decline and Rebirth of Irish Whiskey Part II: The Renaissance of Irish Whiskey

13 Comments on Loving Irish Whiskey

  1. Cat: just to clarify, the Celtic Whiskey Shop is in Dublin, and does not serve food. Nor does it sell whiskey by the drop. The Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder in Killarney, however, does both.


  2. Wow Celtic Whiskey Shop has such a big selection – a true paradise for whiskey tasters! I like how they have food available there so you can do pairing. Did you bring any whiskey home?


  3. jenruizwriter // October 25, 2017 at 12:54 pm // Reply

    I would love to sample some of these! Maybe with the help of a chaser haha, what a great TBEX experience! I went to the Jack Daniels Dustillery in April and was impressed by how much care goes into the process. Cheers!


  4. I know nothing, like Jon Snow… I can’t even tell beer apart so this will be very challenging for me. I’m sure the whiskey in Ireland tastes much better than what we have back home though


  5. I have limited experience with whiskey, but definitely, want to explore more. I only started drinking whiskeys and bourbons in the last 5 years but really enjoy sipping a nice glass over ice!


  6. Don’t think I’d tried much of Irish Whiskey but nowadays I really love the Japanese ones. You should try that next!


  7. My knowledge has been confined to Jameson’s, but I’m always eager to taste and learn more about regional specialities. Next time, for sure!


  8. It seems like there has been a foodie revolution going on in the last twenty years. What I particularly like is how this is preserving local culture and traditions. We have choices in with our spending and I love seeing it going to craftsmen.


  9. I would love to learn more about whiskey – and Ireland must be the place to do it! I love doing tastings of the local drink or spirit when I travel. I think it lends so much insight into the culture and history of a place. Those statistics about whiskey consumption growth in the US are surprising, too.


  10. I really enjoyed that Celtic Whiskey Bar as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Whisky tasted so much better in Ireland than anywhere else I’ve had it. The storytelling and scenery certainly helped. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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